Tony’s Thoughts…Finishing A work in Progress

In September 2012, I blogged about the start of something new. Well, now it’s nearly finished! Crack open the champagne and celebrate with a pizza. Woohoo, when I finish Book Five, let’s roll that puppy out to Kindle and the world!

Except, of course, I won’t have finished it at all.

I’ll be nowhere near finished. In some ways, I won’t have even started.

What I will have is 50k-60k words of a first draft story, a story I wrote just for myself and posted extracts on Facebook just for fun.

So here’s what happens next…

Draft Zero

I suppose most people would call it a first draft, but I’m going to call it draft zero. Draft zero finishes with me writing ‘The End’. There are words in zero that no one else will ever see…because now I start the re-writes, and with the re-writes come the deletions and the inserts. A suggestion from Stephen King is that drafts should always be 10% shorter when you’re finished, and as I much as I try to follow it, sometimes it’s 10% longer. It tends to balance out though, between the scenes I want extending and ones I want cutting.

What I’ll be doing is looking at the notes I made for myself when I write – I put them in bold so I can see them easily – and I’ll be working my way through the whole book, looking for ways to drop in the extras – or not, as the case may be. I’ll be cleaning up my grammar and characters as I go and making it look a little prettier.


Wow, so you’re done right? I hear you say.


First draft

Ahh yeah, sure I am. Sure. I. Am.

Here’s one of the strangest things you do as a writer. You take your (what is now) first draft, print it out carefully, and then: Put it in a drawer for six weeks and forget it.

Yep. Spend the best part of a year writing a book, and then do your best to forget it exists. Write something else. Learn to juggle. Get some fresh air – I hear that’s nice, although I don’t get much of it. Whatever you do, do not touch it.

How will you know when the day is right to pick it up again? It’s one of those annoying answers, because for me, I just know. Sorry, I don’t have a better answer than that.

So one day in the future, when you know you’ve forgotten that you ever wrote this pile of papers, you take out your first draft and you do exactly what you did with draft zero: Edit it again, rewrite where you have to, take parts out, put them back.

The reason I like to do this with a printed copy is that the change of format really does help me see mistakes. I can look at it as a reader, and not as a writer, and I can see the changes I’d want to make it a book I’d want to read. Killing the parts that don’t add to the story. And this is when it gets weird people, because there are parts in there you don’t remember writing. Which is pretty freaky when you think about it.


Now you’re going to self-publish it?


Second Draft

Sure. After this:

Wow. This is a biggie. I’m actually going to show someone else what I’ve been doing in the spare bedroom since September. For me, that person will be my wife. She’ll – hopefully – pull it apart and tell me where the plot holes are that I didn’t see…and I’d rather it was her than a reviewer on Amazon. She’ll correct the grammar and spelling mistakes that got by the spellchecker (and she’ll complain about my two word paragraphs).

Back for another round of editing, although at this point it might only be a sentence or two.


So it’s got by Mrs Talbot, and it’s ready to go?


Third Draft

Yeah, right. (<—There’s one of those two word paragraphs….)

NOW it goes out to my beta-readers; the first people in the world who are likely to want to read it. More edits? Maybe, but they may love it as it stands and I might be lucky.

Beta-readers are a new one for me on this book, so I’ll get back to you on that one.

Fourth Draft

With Eight Mile Island, I used a professional YA editor (Jennifer Moorman) for the first time, and I’m going to be running the manuscript by her this time as well. Last time she spotted a major flaw in EMI that my wife and I missed, so I think it’s worth it.

And after Jennifer has been paid, I’ll be thinking about a book cover. But there’s enough back and forward between myself and Jennifer to call the next step…

Fifth Draft

Wow, it’s been a long way getting here. How long has this taken? That depends on how quickly my beta-readers read it, how quickly Mrs Talbot read it, and a dozen other things. And don’t forget those vital six weeks sitting in a drawer.

But NOW Book Five is finished. Now I can order the pizza! Now all I have to do is start promoting it. And converting it to Kindle. And the formatting of the paperback…


So after all that?


Start thinking about Book Six, of course…

3 thoughts on “Tony’s Thoughts…Finishing A work in Progress

  1. I completely understand the ‘who wrote that?” moments, when you’re reading in paper… I’ve had that a few times and thought “Ooh – I like that” and then realise, I must have written it. You can switch off to some degree and become a reader – although it always helps to have someone else too. 🙂

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